John’s Horror Corner: Bleeders (1997), an unconventionally delightful mutant pseudo-vampire movie.
MY CALL: For such a slow-paced opening (and middle), I really enjoyed the story of this oft-forgotten B-release. The plot, though not perfectly consistent—what horror is, right?—really interested me and I gave a damn about the main characters. Throw in some stumpy, mutant, photosensitive Morlocks that can make you smile and you have a real winner with some fun flavor. This is an “A+” of a B-movie. IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: The Hazing (2004); totally unrelated premise, but a truly fantastic direct-to-DVD horror. ALTERNATE TITLE: This was also released as The Descendent with a very non-horror-looking DVD cover. One may mistake it for a drama at a glance…but far from it. Yet another title, Hemoglobin, appeared to be a medical thriller of sorts. Again, quite far off. The present cover is most blatant and, while it gives away the appearance of the monsters, does that really ruin the movie for anyone?
It’s like The Little Lighthouse on the Prairie. Is Roy Dupois playing a young orphan in search of his biological father, Rutger Hauer, who runs a lighthouse in Maine? It sure looks like it. And it sure looks like there will be ZERO inbred mutants living in catacombs!
It DOES look like some awful thriller, doesn’t it? Or a new Highlander TV series. There can be only one!
Wait! B-horror that comes with a history lesson? Yes, please! In 1652 the King of Holland forbade intermarriage within aristocratic families when doctors discovered hemophilia and other genetic defects in the royal family. [End history lesson.]
Eva Van Daam (Gillian Ferrabee; Secret Window), a true narcissist, chose to lay with her twin brother (also played by Gillian Ferrabee), the closest second to making love to herself. After the king’s decree against incest, she moved her family to the New World where, presumably, they could continue their sibling-kissing ways behind closed doors and they disappeared in history in some Atlantic island community.
Cutting to present day, we meet a very pale, awkwardly European-looking John Strauss (Roy Dupuis; Screamers). He is weak—noted by his heavy-handedness on his cane—has strange visions during seizures, and is a hemophiliac tended lovingly by his much healthier and more attractive wife Kathleen (Kristin Lehman; The Chronicles of Riddick). After a life-threatening nose bleed—referred to as blood poisoning—we quickly meet this Atlantic village’s only doctor, Dr. Marlowe (Rutger Hauer; The Rite, Hobo with a Shotgun).
We learn that John was born on the island but raised in Paris since he was an infant, funded on some manner of anonymous/secret trust fund which the bank traced back to the Atlantic village. During their origin-sleuthing expedition, John and Kathleen stay in the town’s only hotel, which doubles as a funeral home. Charming, right? Dr. Marlowe turns out to be on the island investigating something himself, and his path soon converges with John’s investigation.
John’s visions become more frequent, he develops a hunger unremedied by food and has no explanation for having these strange “urges.” Some interesting discoveries suggest that John may actually be a Van Daam, even though he is 33 and the last of the family died off 75 years ago in a terrible fire at their estate. Hmmmm?
The protector of the Van Daam estate. If it’s anything like the Van Damme estate, then there’s not much worth protecting.
When we finally meet our monsters the scenes feel, well, “fun.” Someone gets dragged to their doom, as usual, but something about it made me smile. From here it’s all stumpy, disproportioned, hermaphroditic mutants and, to the delight of horror fans, they’re breaking the rules when choosing their victems with no discretion between a witch of a crotchety woman and a sweet old lady in a wheelchair, a sweet young lady trying to escape her abusive mother, and yes, innocent children!
How many nostrils is that? Does this thing breathe like a congested pug or what?
Oh, thank God! That guy who played Yoda finally got an acting job outside of the Star Wars franchise.
What to watch for: 1) John finds the cure for his incurable disease. Not exactly turning to Eastern Medicine when hospitals failed him, he eats a dead fetus that’s been soaking in formaldehyde for years. Afterwards he has the confidence of an athlete from one of the early 1990s Wheaties ads.
Note the same eye color as John Strauss. He very well might have eaten his great uncle Perry.
2) The “Bleeders” are all legless hermaphrodites. So, essentially, when they move by tripod-ing their arms and “lower body” stumps they are basically slamming and dragging their genitals across the rocky floor of their catacomb homes. Ouch! 3) John is reunited with his long-separated twin sister (the THIRD acting credit for Gillian Ferrabee in this film, by the way) that he never knew existed. To provide an exact narrative quote from the movie: “And although his sister could make love to herself, she welcomed her long lost brother and loved him, too.” I appreciate when they came ad some sincere romance to a B-horror flick. Don’t you? 4) Realizing that Gillian Ferrabee plays three different small roles as incestuous members of the Van Daam family! I guess the director was trying to ride the coattails of The Nutty Professor (1996) which came out one year earlier with Eddie Murphy playing seven characters.
Here’s another DVD cover. This one looks like a mutant vampire flick.
Director Peter Svatek had done nothing major prior to Bleeders (not that Bleeders is by any means major), nor after, and I can only add Witchboard III: The Possession (1995) to his horror credits. That said, I was quite pleased with this flick and shocked that such an inexperienced director could generate this product. It absolutely could have been better. But it’s worth a watch just the way it is.